Planning a solo trip to Managua, Nicaragua? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The capital of Nicaragua and its largest city, with a metro population of over 1.1 million.
- It is the political, economic, industrial and administrative capital of Nicaragua.
- Located behind Lake Managua in the western part of the country, Managua was originally founded as a fishing village in 1819.
- Suffered devastating earthquakes in 1931 and 1972, from which it has not yet fully recovered.
- Nickname: Novia del Xolotlán (“The Bride of Xolotlán”).
- Currency: Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIC).
- Spoken languages: officially Spanish, though Miskito is the most widely spoken.
- Best time to visit: from November to April.
- Arriving from the airport: Managua international Airport (Augusto C. Sandino) is located 11 km from the city center. The best way to go to the center is by taxi – look for an Official Airport Taxi (ask inside the airport for exact directions and information).
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers in Managua: La Bicicleta. Very clean, safe (important!), with hot showers and friendly English-speaking staff. A great place for transiting through. They will help you arrange onward transportation and taxis if need be (for pickup at any hour of the day).
- As Managua is simply a transit city for most travelers you will find the cheapest rates around the major bus stations (these areas can be dangerous).
- For a proper city visit, look for places in the historic city center, or in Zona Rosa.
- The city is very affordable by Western standards.
- If you’re staying near the city center, everything is within walking distance.
- To get around, you can take the city buses ($0.35/journey). Keep in mind that these are usually overcrowded and rife with pickpockets.
- The other option is to arrange a taxi – this is much safer, and will only cost you $1 to $4 for a journey within the city center. Look for the official taxis with red plates (the driver’s ID should be visible above the dashboard). The other (“private”) taxis may not always be safe!
- Buses departing from Managua to other cities are located around Barrio Martha Quezada.
- Drinking age is officially 19, though this is not enforced.
- The best clubs and upscale bars are in Zona Rosa and the Malecón, on the shore of the lake.
- Great bars to start your night: Hard Rock Cafe and La Estación Central.
- Be careful when going out alone at night – use taxis to/from your destination!
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Visit Plaza de la Revolución and Parque Central. This square with a park in the middle is the center of the old town. Around the square are Catedral de Santiago, The Ruben Dario National Theatre, and the National Palace of Culture.
- The Old St. James Cathedral of Managua is the first Cathedral built inside a metal frame construction. It is still undergoing reconstruction from the damages sustained during the 1972 earthquake.
- The Rubén Dario National Theater is one of the most renowned theaters in Central America.
- The National Palace of Culture contains the National archives and the National Library.
- The Doctor Roberto Incer Barquero Library is a library/museum where you can learn about the art and history of Nicaragua. Inside, there is a gallery with youth exhibits.
- The Museum of Acahualinca is an anthropological museum – a must visit due to the 6000-year old footprints on display (engraved in volcanic ash).
- Managua is situated on the southern shores of Lake Managua. If you want relax for a moment at a small restaurant or a cafe, this is the place to be.
- You can think of Managua as having two parts – the old part contains buildings still standing after the earthquake, while the newer part features all the big malls and residential areas.
- Start your day with a breakfast at a local restaurant near the Central Park. Take a walk through the historic old center of town.
- Explore Zona Monumental, an interesting area not far away from the center. Here, you will find a mix of pre- and post-earthquake monuments and buildings.
- There are a few big markets which can make for a unique and interesting stroll. Ask in your hotel or hostel for the exact locations and opening times. Mercado Oriental is one of the biggest markets in Central America!
- Traditional dishes typically include rice and beans (or corn and tortillas). The meat varies, and some of the options (e.g. cow stomach, lizard) may surprise you. A local favorite is Gallo Pinto, a dish with fried rice, onion, sweet pepper and red beans boiled with garlic.
- Great restaurants to try: Los Ranchos, Zacatelimon, Restaurante Kyoto, and Peruvian Terrace.
- Where to find good cheap eats: affordable food can be found just about anywhere! You can find the best restaurants on the edge of the lake and in the city center. Look for small, local restaurants or stands as they prepare the real local stuff.
- Dangerous areas: while Managua is a safe city to explore, take caution and watch your belongings. It is not recommended to walk alone or on small streets at night (if you are traveling after dark, take a taxi). The bus stations are notoriously seedy, and popular with pickpockets.
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days